Centerlines - January 2008 - (Page 34)

ACQUIRING AIRTRAN If at first you don’t succeed, try the Charleston method B Y NI CO L E NE L S O N AIR SERVICE RECRUITING “I f at first you do not succeed, try, try again,” was the proverbial approach Charleston, S.C., utilized to acquire low-fare air service with AirTran Airways. In hopes of quashing its status as one of the most expensive communities in the country in terms of the cost of air service, Charleston began its first courtship with AirTran in 2003. “Air travel costs were a huge issue for members of our community,” said Mary Graham, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of public policy. “This community was voicing loud and clear that air travel costs were prohibitive and asked us as an organization to do something about it.” Graham gathered significant travel commitments from the business sector, and coupled with the Charleston County Aviation Authority’s (CCAA) $1 million Small Community Air Service Development Grant and cordial conversations between the community and AirTran, Charleston was expectant to pen an agreement for low-fare air service with the Atlanta-based carrier. The process went on for several months, yet despite genuine interest, AirTran was not willing to commit to startup service at Charleston International Airport at the time. “We developed a good relationship with them and understood it was a business decision,” said Airport Chairman David G. Jennings. “We didn’t think that foreclosed the possibility of them ever coming to Charleston. It just wasn’t going to happen in 2003.” Shortly thereafter, Washington Dulles-based Independence Air became a player in the Charleston market. The low-cost carrier, which previously served the area as an United Airlines feeder carrier, began service June 16, 2004. As prices went down, passenger numbers went up in the market comprised of 50 percent business and 50 percent leisure travel. Incorporating six months of Independence Air service, the total number of passengers in 2004 was 1.83 million. Charleston subsequently netted 2.14 million passengers with Independence Air’s presence in 2005, representing a 17 percent jump in one year. The financially struggling discount airline, the only low-cost carrier serving Charleston, discontinued operations Jan. 5, 2006. Another Try Based upon its Independence Air experience, Charleston recognized the importance for the market to find a replacement low-cost carrier. Three area entities – the airport, the Chamber and the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau – joined together and hired a consultant, Seabury Airline Planning Group, to crunch the numbers and Charleston captures AirTran with perseverance. 34 CENTERLINES | JANUARY 2008

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Centerlines - January 2008

President’s Message
Canadian Airports
Associates’ Corner
Policy Center
Regulatory Front
On the Hill and On the Stump
One on One: Dave Barger
Revenue: The Concessions Awards
Environment: O’Hare Expansion
Passenger Focus: Houston Friendly
Safety and Security: After Comair, What Next?
Air Service Recruiting: Charleston’s Acquisition of AirTran
On Management: Performance Benchmarking at DFW
Now Underway
Grand Opening
Conference Previews and Reviews
New Members
Index of Advertisers/
Box Scores

Centerlines - January 2008